Gail Adcock at the cinema: Cinderella review

Cinderella
Cinderella

No swashbuckling, shoot-’em-up or superhero antics this week. Instead sisters are doin’ it for themselves and bringing girl power by viewing, well, the er, totally brand new retelling of Cinderella actually.

Lily James stars as Ella (who’s later cruelly nicknamed Cinder-Ella by her step-sister as she cleans the fire) in a classic adaptation of the fairy tale that nods to its Disney animated predecessor.

As her Fairy Godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) lavishes magical dust to enable an outing to the ball, she flourishes her wand with a “Bippiti-boppity-boo”. Cinders’ dazzling ballgown, the bluebirds and friendly mice are all borrowed from the 1950s classic.

Director Kenneth Branagh’s fairytale world is lavish, set in lush green lands, which the camera swoops over bringing the epic story to life, while costumes are opulent and attention to detail exquisite.

Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) is a force to be reckoned with, not only for her cruel, bullying actions but also her sharp, coutured 1940s-inspired silhouette.

Her style and presence steal every scene she’s in, but her wickedness isn’t a patch on Margaret Lockwood’s stepmother in The Slipper And The Rose, arguably the best version of Cinderella to ever grace the screen.

The cast succeed in walking a fine line between inhabiting their well-known characters while not caricaturing their roles.

The story seeks to ‘fill out’ characters, providing added details to create more 3-dimensional human beings with motives and emotions. The emphasis on presenting Ella’s early life and loss of her parents brings a sadness that the fairy tale merely alludes to but forms the basis of her desire to faithfully follow their example in living a lowly life. There are subtle undercurrents of the complexity of relationships and family life here, ambitious for a retelling of such a well-known tale.

For all its splendour and opulence though, the film ultimately lacks real substance.